On Éastremónaþ, Éaster, and Éastre

EostreUpon the Sunday following the first full moon after the Lencten even-night,[i] a housel is held throughout Christendom to recall their godling’s grave-rising.  Whilst known by most of Christendom as Pascha, the Latin name for the Jewish Passover, throughout English speaking world the holiday is, instead, known as Easter.  Taken from the Anglo-Saxon moon-month of Éastermónaþ, “Easter Month,” which fell nigh about the Roman month of April, Easter was a name well known in England long before Augustine brought the Christian gospel to its shores in 597 CE.  As betold by Béda in his reckoning of the Anglo-Saxon months, De mensibus Anglorum (725 CE):

Éastermónaþ, which is now name-wended “Paschal Month,” was named for the goddess Éostre to whom they once held fainings. By her name they now call the Paschaltide; the name that was thewful (customary) for their old rites being given to the gladness of their new worship.”[ii]

As aforesaid in On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht, the Anglo-Saxon church borrowed freely from a thew which once belonged to the old belief so as to ease troth-wending.  To this end, Christ was bestowed with the names of Bealdor, Éarendel, Fréa, and Wuldor (ON: Baldr, Aurvandil, Freyr, and Ullr), gods whose reach touched upon the worship of the sun or sky.  Moreover, Éaster is not alone in being a Heathen holytide rebranded as a Christian holiday.  The Cristesmæsse (Christ Mass, Christmas) offered by Anglo-Saxon Christians at the winter sunstead to mark their godling’s birth was, for many hundretide, known by the heathen name of Géol (ON: Jól).  Indeed in sundry carols it is still sometimes sung of as Yule.

As to the goddess Éastre, her name springs from the Proto-Germanic *Austrǭ, itself from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂éws¸ meaning both “dawn” and “east.” Her namelore is shared by other Indo-European dawn goddesses such as the Hindu Ushas, the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurora, and the Lithuanian Aušrinė. As such, we may well believe that the Anglo-Saxon Éastre is, as well, a goddess of the dawn.  That the church would borrow the name of her holytide for that of their Passover speaks to the Anglican troth-melding begotten by Bishop Mellitus (see On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht).  Where the risen Sun goddess was once fained, a housel was held for the grave-risen “Son of God.”

Yet as the holytide of Éaster is held but one month a year and the dawn arises every day, we might well wonder what holy rune her yeartidely faining betokened (what sacred mystery her seasonal celebration symbolized). Though it is but a learned guess, we might well think it to be the dawning of the summer-sun.  On this, more will follow in a forthcoming blog entry.

Anglish Wordhoard
Betoken – Symbolize
Betold – Described
Éaster – The holytide upon which the goddess Éastre was worshipped and which marked the beginning of summer.
Éastre – The Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn
Éastremónaþ – “Easter Month,” a lunar month in the Anglo-Saxon calendar roughly corresponding with April.
Fain – Celebrate
Faining – A Théodish-wrought word meaning “to celebrate” or “to worship.”
Housel – An old word for the Eucharist, itself sprung from the Old English húsel, “sacrificial feast
Hundedtide – Century
Godling – The offspring of a god, the “son of (a) god”
Grave-rising – Resurrection
Lencten even-night – Lenten even-night, Spring Equinox
Moon-month – Lunar month, from new moon to new moon
Name-lore – Etymology
Name-wended – Name translated
Rune – Mystery
Sunstead – Solstice
Thew – Custom, tradition
Thewful – Customary, traditional
Troth-melding – Religious syncretism
Troth-wending – Trust-turning, religious conversion
Yeartidely – Annual, seasonal

[i] This is the Christian way of reckoning their Easter Mass.  The Heathen reckoning is far more straightforward, being the full moon of Éastremónaþ.
[ii] Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretetur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant, nomen habuit, a cuius nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant; consueto antiquae observationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes. Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum.  Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

About Þórbeorht Línléah

Ealdorblótere (chief priest) at Whitthenge Heall of the Ealdríce, an Anglo-Saxon Théodish fellowship. Author of Of Ghosts and Godpoles: Theodish Essays Pertaining to the Reconstruction of Saxon Heathen Belief, Both Old and Anglo (2014). Author of Þæt Ealdríce’s Hálgungbóc: The Théodish Liturgy of Þæt Ealdríce (2015, 2016). Þórbeorht resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Eþelwynn and two daughters.
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